Terminology for Procedures Related to the Brain and Nerves

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  • 0:00 Lobotomies
  • 0:39 Lobectomy & Thalamotomy
  • 2:30 Treatments for Nerves
  • 3:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, we'll cover a few terms related to surgical procedures of the brain and nerves. Lobectomy, thalamotomy, neuroplasty, neurotomy and neurorrhaphy.


You've surely heard of a lobotomy, right? It's that neurosurgical procedure infamous for being used on people with severe mental disorders. It used an instrument called an orbitoclast, which is basically a modified ice pick.

Many people subject to this procedure became apathetic and passive to the point that it was described as 'frontal-lobe castration' in the famous novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Lobotomies are, thankfully, no longer being performed, but lobectomies and other procedures related to the brain and nerves are. We'll discuss a few terms related to these.

Lobectomy & Thalamotomy

Although it sounds similar to lobotomy, a lobectomy is different. A lobectomy is technically a term that refers to the surgical excision of a lobe or any organ or gland. So, that could mean a liver lobe, or a lobe of the lung, and so on.

'-Ectomy' is a suffix that stands for the surgical removal of something out of the body. The meaning of 'ec'tomy should be easy to recall if you know the word 'exc'ise means to remove something surgically as well.

While a lobectomy can be performed on many different organs, in this lesson, we're talking about the excision of a lobe of the brain. So, why would we do this to the brain?

Well, the biggest reason for it is for the treatment of seizure disorders, especially ones that are refractive to medication. In medicine, the word 'refractive' is a term that means 'resistant to' or 'unaffected by.' So, people who take medication for a seizure disorder and do not positively (that is to say therapeutically) respond to the medication at all or have a very poor therapeutic response to the medication are said to be refractive to it.

Not all neurosurgical procedures involve the removal of something out of the brain. Take, for instance, a thalamotomy, a surgical incision into the thalamus. 'Thalam-' obviously refers to the thalamus, and '-otomy' means a surgical incision into something.

Why are thalamotomies performed? One large reason is Parkinson's disease. It's a disease that causes people to experience muscle tremors. Among many other functions, the thalamus is involved in movement. A thalamotomy destroys certain cells within the thalamus and helps to quiet the tremors characteristic of Parkinson's disease. But again, this surgical procedure is usually performed in cases refractive to medication.

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